Come, Follow Me
Our theology professor in seminary explained faith by creating a grid on a blackboard. Along the top of the grid he listed various Christian faiths: Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Mennonite, Episcopal. Down the side of the grid he listed teachings: baptism, communion, worship, salvation, prayer, saints, heaven, confession, forgiveness, the Bible. He filled in each box on the grid with the positions of each of the various churches.
Find the box that best fits you, he said, and you have identified your faith. Yes, faith can be described in words on paper, but faith is much more. Faith is not just what we say, it is what we do.
Long before the church developed positions on baptism, communion, salvation, worship, and the Bible, a charismatic rabbi named Jesus invited fishermen along the sea of Galilee to “Come, follow me” (Matthew 4:19). At once they followed. They asked, “What must I do?” He replied, “Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.” “Who is my neighbor?” they asked. He answered by telling them the story of the Good Samaritan, a hated foreigner who helped someone in need (Luke:25-37).
Observing someone suffering, he was questioned, is this the right time to help? He answered with a question: If your child falls into a well on the Sabbath, will you not immediately pull the child out of danger? (Luke 14:5)
“Are these noisy children bothering you?” a disciple asked of Jesus. “No, no, no! Do let the children come to me for they are indeed worthy of divine love” (Matthew 19:14).
Before Emily Post wrote her book on etiquette, Jesus instructed, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you” (Luke 14:13-14).
Parents! Jesus said in his story of the Prodigal Son, you are to be loving, full of grace and forgiveness (Luke 15:11-32).
Jesus knew the Hebrew scriptures well and followed Micah’s counsel. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Faith is “an object” that can be inspected and reviewed. Its objectivity comes in many denominations: “justification by faith,” “baptized into the faith” “heed the book of Common Prayer,” “honor the sacraments” and “accept Jesus as one’s personal Savior.” But that is just the beginning. As James writes, “So faith by itself, if it has no works is dead” (James 2:17).
Students in the LCM Confirmation program learn the “facts,” they have studied Luther’s Small Catechism and read much in the Bible. Those “facts,” those “truths” are an important foundation on which to stand.
But all must take caution not to let faith get trapped by facts, faith must come alive imitating Jesus. As we’ve been richly blessed by God’s love, we are to share that divine love, we are to share our many blessings with others. Faith is accepting the invitation issued to the fishermen on the Galilean Sea, the invitation issued today to each of us, “Come follow me.”